On today’s two-year anniversary of the two-child limit, new research for the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) shows 300,000 more children will be in poverty as a result of the policy by the time universal credit is fully rolled out in 2023-2024. The policy, which restricts child allowances in universal credit and tax credits to the first two children in a family, has so far hit an estimated 150,000 families with children aged under two.
Forty three per cent of children in families with three or more children already live below the poverty line (compared to a 30 per cent child poverty rate overall). Many of these children will be pushed into deeper hardship by the policy, CPAG warns.
Two-thirds of families affected will be working. And many families who were not claiming tax credits or universal credit when they decided to have their third child will be affected by the two-child limit if they fall on difficult times, such as becoming unable to work due to illness or losing their partner.
A single parent with three children working 16 hours/week on the ‘national living wage’ of £8.21 per hour would have to more than double her hours to 37 per week – more if she has to pay for childcare –to compensate for the effect of the two-child limit. This is clearly unrealistic for many families with young children.
Child Poverty Action Group says the policy breaches the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and unlawfully discriminates against children as, uniquely, it no longer treats them as worthy of individual consideration for entitlement to subsistence benefits.
Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group Alison Garnham said: “As a country we believe that every child deserves support especially in the earliest years of life but the two-child policy denies support for some children on the basis of how many older siblings they have. That isn’t right.
“The Government recognises that investment in the early years is crucial for children’s development. Yet the result of current policies is that the face of poverty is getting younger – with the latest figures showing that 53 per cent of poor children are aged under five.
“It’s right that the Work and Pensions Secretary decided not to apply the policy to children born before it was introduced but the policy is harming infants now – if it’s wrong for older children, it’s wrong for the babies and toddlers it’s affecting now.
“The two-child policy is out of step with our national commitment to children and to family life. It is foisting misery on families, with parents telling us they can’t afford basics like baby milk, nappies, clothes for their children or transport to take sick children to medical appointments. It should be abolished in line with our shared belief that every child matters.”
The child element of child tax credits and universal credit is worth £2,780 per year and until April 2017 was payable for all children in low-income families to protect them against poverty. The largest group affected by the policy once fully rolled out will be working families with three children.
The preliminary findings of forthcoming research with families affected by the two-child limit, by CPAG, the Church of England and Entitledto, show many families are unable to afford essentials for daily living.
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